Category Archives: Newsletter

Any post that is intended to edn up in the bi-monthly news letter

APA Health Care Coverage in Light of the SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

by Maury Koffman, APA President

MSU Human Resources is working to change its systems in light of the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage.

For marriages occurring on or after June 26, 2015, once the HR/Payroll system is changed, employees who have submitted a marriage license for their same-sex spouse and an enrollment form will receive a confirmation email from Human Resources that their spouse has been added to their health benefits. All coverage will become effective on the date of the marriage. Employees have 30 days from the date of marriage to submit a marriage license in order to add a spouse to their benefit plans.

Employees who were married prior to June 26, 2015, and whose spouse is not already covered under their MSU health plan, may add their spouse during the October Benefits Open Enrollment period for coverage effective January 1, 2016.

Employees whose spouse is already covered by their MSU health plan will no longer have imputed income as of their July paycheck.  The Payroll Office is working to adjust imputed income retroactive to January, however, the adjustment may occur over more than one paycheck.

All questions may be directed to the HR Solutions Center at 517-353-4434 or via email at

APA Questions From The Trenches

2015 Bargaining Update

Who represents all APA members at the bargaining table?

Per Article VII of the APA Constitution and Bylaws, the APA must begin preparations to negotiate a successor agreement by naming our Negotiations Committee in January of the year our current contract is set to expire. Accordingly, roughly 30 members comprising a cross section of the membership were appointed to serve on the APA 2015 Negotiations Committee in January 2015.

Additionally, a group of seven members and two alternates from the Negotiations Committee have been appointed to serve as the 2015 Bargaining Team, the body of individuals that sit at the table to negotiate a successor contract.

Will wages and health care be part of the 2015 negotiations?

No. The APA negotiates our wage and health care as part of a joint coalition of campus support staff unions. That agreement – lead by APA UniServ Director Melissa Sortman as the chief negotiator – was bargained in 2013. The union is proud to have fought off a high deductible health care plan and also secured eligible annual wage increases each year 2015 – 2018. Fully funded health care, annual wage increases, lump sum bonuses, 2-1 match on member’s 403(b) and other benefits we all enjoy would not be possible without a strong and properly resourced union.


What topics or items can be bargained during the APA 2015 negotiations?

All other elements – except base wage and health care – that are regarded as a member’s wages, hours, and conditions of employment may be elements bargained at the table such as sick time, educational assistance, notice requirements, and pro forma functions of the APA contract.


How can members provide input?

Several APA member forums have already been held around campus including our Community and Regional Luncheons as well as other member meetings. Additionally, the entire membership was recently sent an online survey soliciting member input. More member input sessions and venues are being scheduled and members can directly email their input to


What happens when a tentative agreement is reached at the bargaining table?

Once a tentative agreement is reached between the APA and University bargaining teams, the full tentative agreement will be communicated with the APA membership. Member forums will be scheduled so members can ask questions to better inform their vote. Ultimately, the tentative agreement and change in contract language will be presented to the APA membership for an electronic vote. A majority of voters must vote in the affirmative to ratify the tentative agreement before the document officially becomes our successor contract.


What are the next steps?

Be sure to watch for official APA ListServ messages, attend APA campus meetings, and read our bargaining communications to stay updated during the 2015 bargaining cycle.



Know Your Rights – Benefits of Union Membership

by Melissa Sortman, MEA Uniserv Director

Why should I be in the union?
The answer depends on what matters most to you regarding your employment.

A majority of members say wages and benefits matter most. On that front, the wages of APA members steadily increase each year. The bargained wage increase for 2014 was 2% and this October will be 2.5%. The next three years will be a range of 2.6% to 1% depending on the increase of the health care spend (if the health care spend is an unprecedented increase above 11%, there could be a wage freeze).

The health care benefits will be fully-funded through December 31, 2017. There will be no premium share for the duration of the Wage and Health Care Memorandum of Understanding. The non-unionized tenure track faculty and academic specialists pay a monthly health care premium for the same health care coverage bargained by APA. There is a difference and it is financial.

All other benefits and working conditions are bargained and enforceable in the union contract. The beneficial retirement plan with a 2-to-1 match is a bargained benefit. Working conditions such as paid leave time, educational assistance, course fee courtesy and basic rules governing the work environment are contractual.

Why would a professional want to be a union member?
APA members are professionals who may question the need for a union environment, but every employee deserves job security, financial security and equitable treatment. APA is a professional union and provides educational opportunities to maximize contractual provisions, access benefits and advises employees on employment law and rights in the workplace.

MSU is a great place to work but it is still an employer and not a benevolent charity. Employees need advocacy and collectivism to balance the power such a large employer wields.

Why does an employee of MSU need to be a union member?
MSU is technically a state agency and has the complexity of a $2 billion organization. Union membership provides a legal avenue to deal with basic employment issues and have an advocate whose purpose is to provide equitable treatment and navigation of the MSU bureaucracy. Strength does come in numbers. One voice of one employee on campus can fall on deaf ears, but a representative of the union has legal access to information and to problem-solving for individual members and the collective whole.

Why be a member of APA/MEA/NEA?
The employment safety net of the union is not just the contract. The contract is the framework to deal with specific contractual issues. The MEA Legal Representation policy only covers members in good-standing. The Legal Representation Policy covers all employment law that includes FMLA, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Wage and Hour Laws and all other employment laws. A law that a member does not have the financial resources to enforce, is not a protection.

Additionally, only full members are eligible for significant home and auto insurance discounts though MEA Financial Services, member benefits, a free life insurance policy, and $1 million liability insurance for all matters that occur related to performing the duties of your campus employment position.


APA is the largest union on campus, representing more than 2,400 members employed in more than 300 positions.


MEA is the largest union in Michigan, representing k-12 and higher ed units across the state of Michigan including CMU, Ferris State, Saginaw Valley, and many community colleges.


NEA is the largest union in the United States, representing 3 million members nationwide. Our collective voice affords us the power and influence we exercise on behalf of each individual member.

Union Membership? Yes!
The quality of work life for an APA member is good. In order to sustain and build the strength of an employee community, it takes individuals dedicated to their profession and a union committed to represent its members both individually and collectively. Let’s continue to build a future for you, MSU and APA together.


The Big Event

Big Event

Dear Team MSU,


I would like to invite you and your family members to participate in “The Big Event” — an opportunity to celebrate the university’s 160th birthday and the extraordinary impact of our MSU employees. Without your commitment to quality, inclusiveness, and connectivity, Michigan State University would not be advancing knowledge and transforming lives. You play an integral role in our university’s international acclaim for its academic programs, services, research, and athletics.


We hope you will join us on Saturday, August 15, 2015, from 4:00 to 9:30 p.m., to celebrate your indispensable contributions to the continued success and inspiring legacy of Michigan State University.


The Big Event will have a variety of free family-friendly events to engage people of all ages. Here are a tentative schedule and list of activities:

  • 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.  – Swimming at IM West Pool
  • 4:00 to 6:30 p.m.  – Ice Skating at Munn Ice Arena
  • 4:00 to 6:45 p.m.  – Carnival at Pentecost Plaza at Old College Field – Inflatables, games, and concessions
  • 4:00 to 6:30 p.m.  – Be a Tourist at MSU – A unique opportunity to be bussed to different locations on campus that are not always readily accessible and get an inside-look at these spaces, as well as meet campus leaders. Tentative Be a Tourist stops include the following:
    • Spartan Stadium Tower
    • Breslin Center
    • Broad Art Museum
    • Beaumont Tower
    • Abrams Planetarium
    • Cowles House (The President’s residence)
    • WKAR media studio
  • 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  – Concert/Entertainment at DeMartin Soccer Complex/Pentecost Plaza at Old College Field
  • 9:05 p.m.  - Fireworks 

To ensure the success of The Big Event, please RSVP here and take a few minutes to complete the brief survey no later than July 24, 2015.


Please call 517-355-6560 or email, if you require any special accommodations.


Thank you for your dedication and hard work! Again, we hope you will join us for this special day in Spartan history.


Spartans Will.


Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.


Questions From The Trenches

For this installment of APA Questions From The Trenches, we asked APA President Maury Koffman to answer a potpourri of questions that members have brought to his attention recently.

I have been informed that my workspace will be relocated through a department reorganization.  How is the decision made where my new workspace will be located?

The University, as the employer, retains the right to determine your office workspace under prevailing law and the APA contract.  However, any decision must be reasonable and in most reorganizations, APs are asked for their input before a final decision is made.  The APA is able to assist in reaching a mutual resolution to your office space as it has an overall impact on your daily work environment and can impact your ability to perform your work responsibilities.

I have been asked to wear specific clothing during the workday.  Can my supervisor and the University require specific attire to be worn in the workplace?

There is precedent that the University can have a reasonable expectation that employees wear appropriate, professional attire in the workplace.  However, the approach must be uniformly applied.

I have been offered another job on campus.  How much notice must I give before resigning my current position?

There is no length of notice requirement to resign from your current position.  The APA encourages providing as much notice as possible with the standard of two weeks notice if your calendar for transition allows.

If I leave MSU employment prior to 25 years of service, do I retain the total balance of my 403(b) retirement account including the MSU contribution?

Yes.  The APA is proud to have negotiated a vibrant retirement plan.  Employee contributions are 5% and University contributions are 10% of the employee’s base annual salary. The money contributed to your 403(b) plan vests immediately and goes with you at any time you conclude your employment relationship with MSU.

I have questions about our APA bargained retirement plan administered through MSU.  Who can I contact for more information?

There is an FAQ on the MSU HR website at that provides more information around our retirement plan.  Additionally, you can contact the retirement office via phone at 517.353.4434 or via email at

Know Your Rights: What isn’t in your contract?

There are many employment laws governing your work environment that are not referenced in the collective bargaining agreement. For APA members, these laws are enforced by APA/MEA and covered under the MEA Legal Representation Policy at no cost to a member.

A brief overview of FMLA from the Department of Labor reviews the basics of FMLA and its purpose:

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

Eligible employees are entitled to:

Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

• the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;

• the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;

• to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;

• a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;

• any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave). Family and Medical Leave Act

The University runs the FMLA year on the fiscal year, July 1-June 30 each year. The FMLA leave runs concurrently with your sick leave if the illness or family illness is covered by FMLA and you have filled out the paperwork and it has been accepted. To apply for FMLA, you need to contact MSU Human Resource Total Compensation and Wellness Leaves Office to talk to a Benefit Leave Advisor. Some of the forms can be found online and by contacting Human Resources (517) 353-4434.

APA leaders and staff are able to assist members through the process and enforce employee rights under FMLA. In addition, there may also be employee protections that can be provided by enforcing the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is also covered by the MEA Legal Representation Policy for members.

APA frequently receives inquiries into the application of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by the University. If you are contacted by the MSU Leave Office regarding the denial of medical certification for FMLA or are being asked to go to get a second medical opinion, please call the APA Office for assistance, (517) 999-4004 or

APA Prepares for Bargaining a Successor Contract

Per Article VII of the APA Constitution and Bylaws, the APA must begin preparations to negotiate a successor agreement by naming our Negotiations Committee in January of the year our current contract is set to expire.

Noting our current collective bargaining agreement is in force from October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2015, the APA Executive Board has appointed a cross-section of more than 20 APA members to serve on the Negotiations Committee.

As you likely recall, the APA negotiated and ratified our wage and health care agreement, which is in effect through 2017 – 2018, that ensures the opportunity for wage increases each year as well as fully funded health care for the base plan.

Therefore, base wage increases and health care will not be a topic of negotiation for the upcoming bargaining.

The APA anticipates negotiations with MSU to begin in late summer.  Prior to that time, the APA will be engaging and soliciting membership input for bargaining through surveys, feedback forums, and email.  Ultimately, any tentative agreement reached at the bargaining table must be brought to a vote of the entire APA membership for ratification.

Be sure to watch official APA ListServ messages regarding contract input surveys and open meeting dates prior to and during the 2015 bargaining cycle. This is your union so your input is greatly appreciated!

APA 2015 Annual Picnic

This is a reminder that the APA Annual Picnic will be held later this week on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. This member event will be held at Patriarche Park at 1100 Alton Street in East Lansing from 4:30pm to 7:00pm under the picnic pavilion.

Relax, network, and have fun!  Food and beverages will be provided.  Bring the whole family to the festivities.  There will be fun activities for kids of all ages.

We hope to see you there!